Transitional Justice Preferences Among Syrians: A Qualitative Exploration

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The Ohio State University

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In the aftermath of violent conflicts, societies often implement transitional justice mechanisms—like trials, truth commissions, and reparations programs—to reckon with past human rights abuses and atrocity crimes. Recent scholarship has begun to consider who prefers which justice mechanisms and why, recognizing the context-dependence of justice preferences and seeking to better articulate the needs of those affected by violence. This study qualitatively explores the influence of individuals' conflict-related ideologies, consisting of their ideas about the conflict and the actors involved, on their transitional justice preferences. Using the ongoing conflict in Syria as a case study, this research draws from 44 interviews with Syrians—eight conducted by the author in Jordan in 2018, and 36 conducted through the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) in 2013. During interviews, participants described their perceptions of the cause of the violence, their attitudes about the actors involved in the conflict, and their preferences for various mechanisms of transitional justice. Employing qualitative analytic methods, this study describes patterns that inductively emerged from participants' explanations of their justice preferences. It finds that participants can be categorized into three distinct Opinion Clusters—extreme, solid, or leaning—based on their perceptions of us vs. them, their framing of the conflict, and their transitional justice preferences. These ideal type categories were identified across both pro- and anti-regime participants, and they illustrate how differences in participants' conflict-related ideologies may inform differences in their transitional justice preferences. This discovery attests to the social construction of justice preferences, which are embedded in the complex meanings individuals ascribe to their lived experiences of conflict. This research connects literature on the social psychological dimensions of conflict to scholarship on transitional justice, and its findings can inform future policy, particularly the design of a tailored justice process for Syria.



Syrian Civil War, Transitional Justice, Ideology, Human Rights, Conflict